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Food additives are anything put in, or on, something, for whatever reason. Very simply it's anything not found in the food or drink in its natural state. Countless colors, taste enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, and other chemicals are used in and on the foods and drinks you buy in grocery stores and in restaurants. The two most commonly used food additives are artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, and monosodium glutamate or MSG. These two also seem to cause the most disturbing physical symptoms or reactions.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Almost everyone has heard of MSG. Many know of it as related to Chinese Food Syndrome. It is unknown if the problems associated with MSG are caused or aggravated by eating things with MSG in them. Reactions to MSG are dose-related. In other words, some people react to even very small amounts. Reactions can occur immediately or days later. The key to deciding if problems are due to MSG is whether you respond with the same reaction(s), and after the same elapsed time, each time you eat MSG in excess of your tolerance level.

MSG is not an allergen. It is a neuro-toxin or nerve poison. Your body reacts to it as it would to a drug. It is harmful to everyone. It is a flavor enhancer food companies learned could mask bitterness, off-flavors, sourness, and the tinny taste of canned foods. This is why it's concealed in so many foods and drinks as well as in other products such as medications and food supplements. National consumption of MSG has risen from about 1 million pounds in 1950 to over 300 million pounds yearly.

According to a June 28, 1997 Associated Press article, two University of Miami researchers, Nirupa Chaudhari and Stephen Roper, say they discovered another type of taste bud. They call the taste umani (oo-MOM-ee), a Japanese word meaning, roughly, “yummy.” The umani taste buds seem to be most sensitive to MSG, which gives a meat-like flavor. When stimulated, they seem to start a cascade effect resulting in your appetite increasing so you want additional helpings.

All forms of MSG can cause a wide variety of reactions in MSG sensitive people, to see a list of common reactions, click here.

If you choose to avoid MSG, you may find it exceptionally difficult. Not only does it occur naturally in many foods such as tomatoes, grapefruit, potatoes, apples, oranges, and mushrooms, but it is also added to an extremely wide variety of commercial products. With natural, unadulterated, unfermented foods, MSG-sensitive people do not react with symptoms to proteins containing either bound or free glutamic acid. However, MSG-sensitive individuals do react to the glutamic acid of MSG in its free form, and, especially if it has been created through fermentation or some other artificial manufacturing process.

The problem with its being added to things is labels frequently do not specify MSG exactly, nor do they say how much MSG is in a particular product. Even more frustrating is not knowing how much MSG is being produced in a product during processing and/or during manufacture. The following ingredients and/or products ALWAYS contain MSG:

  • Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed)
  • Textured protein
  • Glutamate
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Calcium and sodium caseinate
  • Yeast extract and Yeast food
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Gelatin
  • Accent and Zest
  • Glutavene
  • Glutacyl
  • RL-50

Also, these products and/or additives OFTEN contain MSG or it is created during processing or manufacture:

  • Malt extract and flavoring
  • Barley malt
  • Tamari
  • Natural flavor(s) and natural flavoring(s) such as pork, beef, chicken, etc.
  • Bouillon
  • Soy sauce and extract
  • Soy protein isolate and concentrate
  • Seasonings (the word seasoning)
  • Broth and Stock
  • Whey protein isolate, and concentrate
  • Milk solids in low fat milk products
  • Spices (sometimes)
  • Protease enzymes and enzymes (depending upon the source)
  • Mei-Jing ans Wei-Jing
  • Ajinomoto
  • Anything protein fortified, enzyme fortified, ultra-pasteurized, or fermented
  • Carrageenan
  • Maltodextrin
  • Kombu extract
  • Subu
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pectin

In addition, two other food additives, disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate, are frequently used to enhance the effects of MSG. If these are present, so is MSG.

The above MSG lists are as complete as possible at present. They should not be considered all-inclusive or final. There are new medical, nutritional, food, and drink products being created every day. Once you stop using things that have been causing you problems, you become much more aware of, and sensitive to, what you can eat, drink, and put on or into your body. Pay attention to your body and eliminate anything causeing you symptoms, whether it is mentioned here or not. Remember, the more of your food you make from scratch, with fresh ingredients, the less likely it will contain MSG.

Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame)

Thousands of foods and drinks, especially diet products, contain artificial sweeteners. They are identified by many different names such as NutraSweet, Equal, Sweet and Low, Sunette, and others. This disguises their real names such as Aspartame, Saccharin, Cyclamate, Acessulfame-K, and others. After being introduced, with much fanfare, Saccharin lost favor when it was found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Interestingly, artificial sweeteners cause an increased appetite. That seems a bit contradictory for weight loss products.

Today, Aspartame seems to be the primary artificial sweetener. It is used in most diet pops, especially the big three. In addition, it is the sweetener of choice in many packaged food products, medications, supplements, and other items for human consumption. It is the NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful you find in most restaurant and grocery stores.

Aspartame is made of about 40% aspartic acid (an amino acid), about 50% phenylalanine (another amino acid), and about 10% methyl alcohol or methanol (wood alcohol). One 12 ounce can of an aspartame sweetened soft drink contains about 30 milligrams (mg) of methanol. It takes very few, depending upon your or your children’s body weight, to greatly exceed the daily limits recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Methanol is a cumulative, human-specific toxin. Your body does not have the necessary enzymes to detoxify it. It takes 5 times longer to eliminate than a similar amount of ethanol. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is the alcohol commonly found in beer, wine, whiskey, and other alcoholic drinks. The ethanol found in foods (fruits, etc.) that contain methanol is protective against the harmful effects of naturally occurring methanol. This protection is absent with Aspartame.

For your body to detoxify the wood alcohol in Aspartame, it must convert it to formaldehyde and then into formic acid. These are both toxic metabolites. The result is metabolic acidosis (See the Water and Water pH Articles) This could be a significant factor in the excess acidity we see in many patients. Also, the aspartic acid, as well as the phenylalanine, cause other problems specific to themselves.

Aspartame accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the US Food and Drug Administration. Over a thousand written complaints concerning Aspartame have been received. To see some of the complaints noted so far, click here. These problems include almost all the symptoms related to eating or drinking things with MSG in them. It would seem wise to eliminate both MSG and Aspartame if you have any problems with any of the symptoms related to either additive.

It has also been suggested that Aspartame may trigger or mimic the following conditions:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epstein-Barr Syndrome
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Post-Polio Syndrome
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lyme Disease
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Grave’s Disease
  • Mercury sensitivity from amalgam fillings
  • Epilepsy
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Systemic Lupus
  • Erythematosis (SLE)

Things You Can Do to Minimize Your Exposure to Harmful Additives

  1. NOTE: We carry natural skin and hair care products in our office containing no harmful ingredients.
    Read labels! Read labels! Read labels! Get into the habit of thoroughly reading the labels of anything and everything you, or someone you love, intends to eat, drink, take, or put on their skin, hair, or nails. Reactions to MSG can occur with soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics. Check for “hydrolyzed” and “amino acids” ingredients. Strangely, MSG-type reactions can occur to the aspartic acid found in Aspartame (see below). Some medications (including children’s medicines), drinks, candy, and chewing gum are potential sources of hidden MSG and Aspartame. Other sources of hidden MSG are the binders and fillers used in medications, nutrients and supplements (prescription and non-prescription), enteral feeding products, and some intravenous fluids. Always ask your pharmacist what is in the products you or a loved one are going to take.
  2. For MSG, minimize and/or avoid manufactured, processed, and fermented foods. Replace them with natural, unprocessed, unfermented foods whenever possible. Even products that say no-MSG-added are not necessarily free of MSG. Most meals served in restaurants across America contain MSG. Delicatessen and smoked meat products as well as sausages and luncheon meats usually contain MSG. Canned gravies, chili, stews, and sauces contain large amounts of MSG. Processed or dried foods with “flavor packets” usually contain MSG. These are often found in boxed rice, pasta, powdered salad dressing mixes, and dried soups. Most commercial salad dressings, soups, meat stocks, dairy products, sauces, seasoning mixtures, frozen foods, teas, and convenience foods contain some form of MSG. “Natural flavors” contain about 40% MSG. It is also found in mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and in most packaged and canned foods, including diet foods, desserts, ice cream, and cakes.
  3. As for artificial sweeteners, you should avoid artificially sweetened foods, drinks, medications, supplements, or anything made with them. Even something sweetened with white sugar is better for you than something artificially sweetened. Better yet, you should use natural sweeteners, if sweetening is necessary (see the section on Sweeteners). In addition, If it says sugar-free, do not even consider it! It almost certainly contains artificial sweeteners.
  4. To adequately test the effects of MSG or Aspartame on your system, you must be totally off of any products that contain them for at least 60 days.
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